The pot calls the kettle black
What can you say about the reckless driver of a Hummer who honks his horn incessantly, even to the point of chasing pedestrians crossing at a crosswalk, complaining about others’ bad driving habits? What can you say about a chain smoker who complains about someone else lighting up nearby? Hypocritical! Ridiculous!
“Get out ofmy way. Don’t do as I do, do as I say,” is the arrogant message that comes through.
The United States is the world leader in electronic spying and infiltration of computers. This makes the US government the world’s biggest hacker, bar none. So it is more than a bit hypocritical, if not borderline humorous, to hear US Attorney General EricHolder accuse a rival of doing something the US does more extensively, more intrusively and more stealthily.
Were it not for Edward Snowden’s revelations of theNational Security Agency’s abuse last year, the average American could continue to enjoy the delusion that the mighty democratic government supported by the sweat and blood of their taxes, and wars on various fronts, was a force for honesty, truth and transparency in a muddied and muddled world. But the uncomfortable truth all Americans have to countenance is this: a nation founded on noble ideals that was once a world leader in the promotion of democracy has become its own nemesis, engaged in endless wars (bullets instead of ballots) and endless spying.
The NSA scoops up an astronomical number of private communications, personal photographs, revealing links to intimate friends, shopping habits, tastes, travel patterns and remote keystroke input every minute of the day, a form of information violation and theft that is easily equivalent in terms of volume and intrusiveness to ripping open every letter ever written in the history of the written word.
This is a shocking development in a country that only recently barred the release of library records on the reasonable assumption that knowing what books a person was reading revealed something private about him/her. Whither America that dared to act as it preached, in accord with its enlightened constitution?
It is hard to see Uncle Sam’s latest finger wagging in the name of cyber supremacy as anything but a reflexive broadside at China, but for what purpose? It’s no slam dunk in diplomatic terms, but rather a gratuitous slap in the face. What is controversialHolder, no friend of civil rights, privacy or government accountability, trying to achieve?
Humiliating rivals is a game played well that plays well in the Beltway, but given the general sophistication of US media production and technique, it’s rather surprising that the Barack Obama administration keeps scoring own goals by accusing others of doing what it does even better.
TheUS was never the democratic paragon it prides itself to be, but it has seen better days. Civil liberties, privacy and accountability were not always trampled on by a top-down security state enforcing the strictures of an unequal society, as is the case today. Why even formerUS president Richard Nixon, vilified for hisWatergate operation of spying on domestic rivals, did not preside over so vast and Orwellian an information-collecting machine as Obama has at his fingertips.
It’s nothing short of audacious to pretend to be guarding cyber civility while giving the NSA foxes a blank check and the run of the information hen house.
In diplomatic terms, it’s a non-starter, if not a provocation. Criticizing China, like any country, has its place in international discourse. But bashing China repeatedly and pointlessly is underlined by a borderline kind of race baiting, because China is frequently cast as a nefarious and inscrutable rival. Stoking fear about the unknown intentions of a poorly understood rival is a ColdWar manipulation tactic that the US seems incapable of shaking.
Holder’s ploy may be a play to a domestic audience, says Douglas Paal, of the Carnegie Institute. He adds that the Obama administration is trying to show it is not as “feckless” as it has every appearance of being.
Paal’s insight suggests that taking WhiteHouse spin at face value is to be spun. WhatHolder may be saying is not really about spying; it’s not even about China, really. What it’s about is an inept administration pretending to be doing something while doing nothing. It’s pretending that the Obama team is better at strategy than photoops, which sadly doesn’t seem to be the case.
When you hear the pot calling the kettle black, it’s probably time to clean up the kitchen which is slippery from all the grease and slick spin.
Tongue-tied US government spokesmen struggle to explain why an alleged case of Chinese hacking is different from the US hacking other countries. The spin of the moment is to say that the US does not spy for economic benefit, though there is documented evidence to the contrary. Even if it were true, which it is not, the distinction is a spurious one. In fact, it would be reassuring if the US only spied for economic benefit, and got out of people’s bedrooms and private phone conversations. TheNSA spies on everything under the sun, and that includes economic information.
Wonton information greed and unwanted intrusions cannot be exonerated merely by pleading a lack of obvious economic benefit. Countries are not always rational economically; duringWorldWar II the Axis powers plundered their neighbors and descended into utter economic ruin for no good reason but the twisted pursuit of power. The author is a media researcher covering Asian politics.